Dear Pressure Cooker,
I would like to apologise for what I put you through the other night. To tell you the truth, I am only just about recovering from the experience myself.
Let me start by saying that you have been a faithful kitchen servant for many years. I need only think of the speed at which you have allowed me to cook a myriad pulses: kidney beans for that tex-mex chili and the Nigerian stew with the peanut sauce; black turtle beans for Mexican “charros”; black-eyed beans to be eaten with sweetcorn and a cider vinegar dressing; butter beans later slow-baked with carrots, tomatoes and oregano; soy beans for homemade tofu (though that was only the once); and chickpeas a zillion ways.
You were never, alas, meant to be used for jam-making.
The other night, as I commenced the rhubarb and ginger jam experiment, it seemed like your pot was just about the right size for the amount of jam mixture involved. Oh how wrong I was. For jam, the pot should be deep enough so that the bubbling liquid does not splash beyond the bounds of the pot or run the risk of boiling over. It wasn’t your fault but, in this case, you lacked the depth required to succeed and I put you under pressure of a kind very different to the one you’re used to…
Once the jam reached its rolling boil, everything within about a one metre radius became a superheated splash zone. It looked like Mt. Rhubarb was erupting on the hob. Approaching in order to test the jam required lightening speed, nerves of steel and and a considerable amount of luck in order to avoid contact with the surprisingly far-reaching arcs of molten sugar.
Nor was this the only problem. I had probably added too much liquid to the rhubarb to begin with. The jam was runny and stubbornly refused to set. I found myself trapped in a cycle of boiling, adding lemon juice, and boiling some more, in the vain hope that this would coax it towards a setting point but, in the process, the mixture was becoming lemon jam with a hint of rhubarb and a distinct taste of burnt sugar. As for the ginger, well, its flavour had long since departed. And still the jam boiled on.
Eventually, long after I should have, I accepted the fact that the jam was past its setting point and just bottled the result. The awful discovery that followed, however, was that my jam-making efforts had left you encrusted with a thick black layer of carbonised sugar and I suspected that I might have done some irreparable damage. Hours of soaking with vinegar, followed by alternative therapies, such as oven cleaner and bread soda, were doing little to break down the carbon deposits. I feared the worst.
In the end it was you yourself who provided the solution, doing what it is you do best. With a little bit of water, I pressure cooked the carbon for a few minutes and, lo, it started to yield. A few further applications and the traces of the jam fiasco were all but faded. A future filled with speedily cooked pulses was coming back into view, a lesson was well learned and all was right with the kitchen once again.
Reminds me of the time I added baking soda to a pot of boiling cabbage. My mother told me that if cabbage is tough and hard to boil, add some baking soda. The trouble was, she didn’t say how much. I heaved in a goodly amount to a large pot of cabbage and the results were spectacular. Green gloop erupted and oozed all over the cooker top, down the sides, onto the floor and almost out the door. It was surreal. Thought about contacting S. Spielberg with the tip – would make a fantastic special effect in a sci fi. Try it sometime just for the helluvit!
Fantastic indeed! Who needs chemistry sets, eh?
Oh, the horror! The horror! I can imagine that this little episode Was Not Pretty! Poor, wronged pressure cooker. I hope you bought it flowers:D
It was most assuredly Not Pretty ™. I think PC has since forgiven me, though I had to buy it many pulses and take great care not to mention the Jam word anywhere within earshot for months :)
Sorry to hear about your jam fiasco, Daily Spud, but have to say I disagree with you, my pressure cooker is GREAT at making jam. I make it all the time in fact, never a bad batch in the lot. Always has a fresh, lovely fruity taste.
I’m curious about the volume of fruit and sugar used, as I suspect you just used too much for the size of the pressure cooker. Do you remember if you used more than 2 pounds of fruit, for example? Did you actually ever pressure cook the jam, or were you just using the bottom of the pressure cooker for making jam in the conventional method?
Hello there ePressureCooker – to answer your question, I was just using the base of the pressure cooker as a conventional pot in this instance (it just happened to be the most conveniently-sized pan to hand at the time) – so my misfortunes had nothing to do with its operation as a pressure cooker (and I’m glad to say that it’s still going strong and in regular use in its pressure cooker capacity. Have never tried using it to make jam under pressure, but I might just investigate that possibility now.
Glad to hear the pressure cooker is alive and well. Highly recommend trying to make jam in it, since (unless you live at extremely high altitude) it gets the jam well over the 220 degree set point and you don’t have to mess with thermometers to make sure you get there, the pressure cooker does it automatically. Would recommend if you try it, no more than 2 pounds of fruit in a 6 qt. pressure cooker, that you add a tablespoon of butter to reduce foaming, and most importantly, that you allow pressure to come down naturally, don’t force pressure release, or you could suck hot jam up into your pressure release valve.
If you ever decide to try it, feel free to ask me if you have questions…
Thanks so much for the jam tips, I might just give that a whirl (I’m pretty close to sea level, so no altitude issues here). Will be in touch if I have any questions!
Any suggestions on pressure cooking stewed rhubarb for the first time how much fruit(I have a lot) how much sugar and how much water? Thankyou I enjoyed your stories!